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How to Clean a Dirty Pocketknife

Q. Dear Gear Guy, I got a pocketknife from my grandfather, and it’s all dirty and rusty. Can you tell me how to clean it, please?
— Rusty Jared, Philadelphia, Pa.

A. Rusty, I love it when Scouts decide to repair old camping gear rather than just throwing it out. I checked in with my friends over at Gerber Legendary Blades to find out exactly how to best fix your knife.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Thick rubber gloves
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Soft sponge (or a toothbrush)
  • Soft cloths
  • Nylon pad
  • Household lubricant (WD-40)
  • Household oil (3-in-1)

CLEAN IT: While wearing your rubber gloves, wet a soft cloth with warm water and wipe down both sides of the blade.

Next, scrub the blade with a soapy sponge. To clean serrated blades, use an old toothbrush rather than a sponge. If there’s junk stuck on the blade, pour dish detergent right on the spot and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing again. Rinse the blade with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

REMOVE THE RUST: Spray the blade with a lubricant like WD-40. Be sure to spray all the rusty areas and then let it sit for one minute.

Now scrub the blade with a nylon pad. Rinse the blade. Repeat with the WD-40 for any stubborn rust spots, letting the lubricant soak in for about five minutes before scrubbing.

Once you’ve removed the rust, wash your blade with warm, soapy water. Finally, dry it off and add a few drops of household oil (3-in-1) to the blade.

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61 Comments on How to Clean a Dirty Pocketknife

  1. If you can get some Kroil will clean better than we-0.

  2. thanks for the tip

  3. Precision Water Blaster // December 19, 2017 at 9:40 pm // Reply

    Thank you for sharing the very helpful guide and tips for cleaning! This can give some insights for people who want a more effective cleaning method. But nowadays people use water blaster for cleaning stubborn dirt, oil, and grease, right?

  4. skinnydipper7709 // November 27, 2017 at 10:37 am // Reply

    super helpful

  5. Wow! 👌👌👌

  6. Put in dish washer and do the above

  7. Seahawks man12 // September 1, 2017 at 7:46 pm // Reply

    I have 5 dirty knives I’ll definitely use this!

  8. I found a rusty BSA folding knife at a yard sale for $1. Soaked it in PB Blaster penetrant for a few days (wd40 would work fine also) then gave it a gentle scrub with some 0000 steel wool. Finally wiped it off real well with a soft cloth. Lubed the blades where they pivot with some oil, remember that PB Blaster & WD40 are solvents, not lubricants.

  9. Decided to clean up my grandfathers knife, thanks for the tip!

  10. OneBoyOneCubMom // August 23, 2015 at 10:06 pm // Reply

    My son just found a multi-tool buried in the dirt today, at our first family camp with his new Troop. It’s full of dirt and possible rust, and cleaning it up will make a great end-of-summer project for him. Thanks for the tips!

  11. To the kid who asked if q tips work for the inside yes they work great

  12. Silver_Sharpie // February 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm // Reply

    I just got a pocketknife from a friend that’s all rusty. This really helped! Thanks!

  13. I recently got given my grandfathers old pocketknife and it was coved with rust. Wd-40 and some time does the trick. Just make sure you dont have any rubber on your pocketknife beucase Wd-40 corrode it.

  14. Does anyone know how to clean the inside of the knife? (where the knife folds into the handle) Would q-tips work? I have a swiss one that isn’t rusty but could use cleaning and a slightly rusty one, How to I get the inside clean? Would I just follow this procedure?

  15. Will try on same kind of knife from yard sale

  16. girl'slifetoo // May 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm // Reply

    Works pretty well. Thanks.

  17. This seems pretty reliable when my knife gets rusty I will do the same

  18. Works!!!

  19. Thnx I just bought a new Winchester bone handle pocket knife on sale for 12 $ and I got a lot of finger prints on it from opening and closing it thx

  20. chicken dude boy // November 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm // Reply

    this stuff works really well

  21. I might try this it seems pretty good

  22. banana muffin man squirrel // July 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    it worked!

  23. used on my old timer, worked great. I will use this in the future!

  24. Knife owner // July 10, 2013 at 11:59 am // Reply

    I actually own the same type of knife that is shown in the pictures. Does anyone have any idea how much that knife is worth?

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 1, 2013 at 8:30 pm // Reply

      It looks like an older knife. But because the knife in the picture is really beat up I would estimate it to be worth around $35-$40.

  25. It worked really well!! 🙂

  26. What if it’s rusted shut? Ive got one that is. Would there be a way to loosen the blades enough to get them out?

  27. I use wd-40 to keep my knife shiny

  28. I use Eagle One Nevr Dull on my knife. it is awesome!

  29. Rubbing alcohol works best

  30. Pulsator125 // March 27, 2013 at 8:08 am // Reply

    My grandfather gave me a pocketknife too. Can I get the scratches out of it?

  31. lebronjames145 // February 2, 2013 at 8:47 am // Reply

    This is pretty useful for camping.

  32. There’s a difference between rust and corrosion. If corroded too badly, the knife may be beyond repair. If it just has surface rust, extra-fine wet-n-dry sandpaper will work. CLR does a good job of removing rust.

  33. Cool! Ill definetly ue this when mine gets rusty

  34. billy bob joe // January 26, 2013 at 10:26 pm // Reply

    just use soap, water, and a rag

  35. super man vs his home :P // January 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm // Reply

    wow this is cool

  36. Nice info to know

  37. Wow hope this works

  38. You can get clr and dip the knife in it

  39. Use penetrating oil to loosen the blades and then you can use a very fine steel wool or 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper to get the rust off the blades. Keep the blade lightly oiled to keep from rusting in the future.

  40. I wonder if it works

  41. wow it worked for me

  42. you can use naval jelly to clean the blade but it is a very powerful chemical so you have to be careful when using it but its very effective

  43. use baking soda on a scouring pad then oil.

  44. Awesome Spy!!! // January 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm // Reply

    thats alot of things used just to clean a knife! 🙂

  45. Thanks for the advice!!!

  46. It didn’t work

  47. godlover11202 // January 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm // Reply

    I have a knife… When it gets rusty:Ill use this!

  48. i have a macheta to use it on!

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